No Small 'Environmental' Affair
Last Monday, April, 16, Environmental Affairs Director Paul Stephan posted a YouTube video entitled: "60 Seconds to Save SA Environmental Affairs." The video received hundreds of views, and a mass amount of students commented on the SA's Facebook page.
Student Association President-elect Travis Nemmer, along with his e-board, decided to consolidate the Environmental Affairs Department with Student Affairs for the 2012-13 academic year. The decision has been met with controversy within the SA. Nemmer said the facts have been misrepresented.
"[The e-board's] plan was never to cut out environmental activities," Nemmer said. "We're big fans of the environment; we think SA should be sustainable. That being said, a lot of what the Environmental [Affairs Department] does is they advocate and they work with administration. That's the definition of what the department of Student Affairs does."
The incoming e-board is proposing that the Environmental Affairs Department is put under the umbrella of Student Affairs.
Nemmer said that by placing the environmental department under Student Affairs, Environmental Affairs would have more money and resources than it did previously. The former Environmental Affairs Department would be able to share in the personnel and budgetary decisions of the Student Affairs office.
"I don't think it's necessarily going to work," Stephan said. "The issue to me is you're saying: 'Oh, we're going to strengthen you by putting you in Student Affairs,' but you give us this huge staff cut and you give us this huge budget cut, so that sends us the signal that you're not trying to strengthen us; you're trying to weaken us."
The budget for Environmental Affairs had been cut from $7,500 to $5,000 in a tentative version of the SA's budget. There was a period of time that the line was rumored to be $500 - that was never true based on the budget shown at Sunday's Senate meeting.
The tentative budget had $13,000 allocated for Student Affairs - $5,000 earmarked for Environmental Affairs and $8,000 for Student Affairs. Nemmer said that Environmental Affairs would be able to draw from the Student Affairs line based on the discretion of the Student Affairs director and the needs of the Environmental Association.
However, senate voted 10 to 3, to keep the Environmental affair's line at $7,500 - something appointed SA Treasurer Justin Neuwrit proposed - to ensure the organization would have sufficient funds.
The entire budget for the 2012-13 school year is still being negotiated, and the newly elected e-board is not allowed to have a direct say in the process, according to the SA constitution. The budget has yet to be officially approved, but parts of the budget were viewed and discussed at Sunday's meeting.
Stephan and other Environmental Affairs members and advocates are troubled by the staff cuts. The department will be cut from 11 workers to three, according to Stephan, but Nemmer said that six of the 11 positions are unpaid subcommittee representatives.
The e-board is cutting the paid staff from five to four, according to Nemmer. He plans to keep the six unpaid subcommittee representatives for a total of 10 positions.
There is a discrepancy between what Stephan thinks and what Nemmer said.
In response to student concern, the elected e-board released a statement on the SA Facebook page on Thursday stating: "To this end, we are committed to hiring a Climate Neutrality Coordinator and another Environmental Activities Coordinator within the Student Affairs Department."
Stephan said he is glad to hear that the elected e-board is listening to what he and fellow Environmental Affairs members are saying, but to him it is still a cut.
"Actions speak louder than words," Stephan said. "It's easy to say: 'We're going to hire these people,' but there's no job descriptions out. I haven't seen a new budget that has our money back. But this isn't victory yet. I need to see some results and more than what they've promised."
Pay is still being negotiated for the upcoming Environmental Affairs staff, according to Nemmer.
The Environmental Affairs Department saves more than $20,000 per year, and it has been around for two and a half years. It has saved student dollars through the use of CIT paper as well as turning off computers each night within the SA office.
The department also advocates for student issues, such as improving recycling and sustainability on campus.
Stephan stressed that the Environmental Affairs Department is not a big expenditure; it's equivalent to the cost of a side of queso from Moe's Southwest Grill per student, he says.
Environmental Affairs will share resources with other sects in the entire department of Student Affairs like athletics and Greek life, according to Nemmer.
"Our plan in the end will lead to more money, more manpower, and finally, more environmental projects," Nemmer said. "This is a net gain for everybody involved."